Best Versions Of Popular SG Groups Part 2

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The southern gospel genre has produced some amazing talent over the past 70 years. Many popular groups have had numerous variations of themselves as industry turnover is a given for every group who sings for any length of time. Here we list some of our favorite versions of some popular groups in southern and country gospel, including a few current newcomers who have caught some attention. This 2nd edition features 10 groups from the past to the modern era. The rankings will go from very best lineup in slot A to other notable lineups on B and C. The final group listed on each edition will be a current group we feel has potential to make some noise in the industry. Part 3 will be posted next month. If we miss a lineup you like, please let us know in the comments!

1). JD Sumner & The Stamps Quartet-In the fall of 1962, Frank Stamps sold his Stamps Quartet Music Company to James Blackwood, Cecil Blackwood, and JD Sumner of the Blackwood Brothers. The new owners created a new Stamps Quartet with Jerry Redd,  Roger McDuff, Terry Blackwood, “Big” John Hall and “Smiling”Joe Roper. Jim Hill, Mylon LeFevre and Chuck Ramsey also performed with what turned out to be a transition version of the Stamps, bridging the three years between the end of the Frank Stamps era and the launch of the J D Sumner era.

Their 1964 LP releases What A Day That Will Be and Without Him featured similar artwork. Both title tracks became timeless classics that can now be found in most modern hymnbooks. “What A Day That Will Be” was written by tenor Jim Hill and “Without Him” was written by baritone Mylon LeFevre.   Best Lineup:

A

  • Bill Baize- Tenor
  • Donnie Sumner- Lead
  • Ed Enoch-Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

B

  • Bill Baize- Tenor
  • Ed Enoch- Lead
  • Ed Hill- Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

C

  • Jim Hill- Tenor
  • Donnie Sumner- Lead
  • Jimmy Blackwood- Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

2). Oak Ridge Boys- The roots of the Oak Ridge Boys date back to a group originally known as  Wally Fowler’s Georgia Clodhoppers. The town of Oak Ridge, TN drew national attention after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945. Fowler, whose group had been popular in the area since 1943, subsequently re-named the group after the town. After the name change, they were known as the Oak Ridge Quartet, but they also referred to themselves as the “Oak Ridge Boys” dating back to the early 1950s. The current edition ranks second in our opinion. Best Lineup:

A

  • Willie Wynn- Tenor
  • Smitty Gatlin- Lead
  • William Lee Golden- Baritone
  • Herman Harper- Bass

B

  • Joe Bonsall- Tenor
  • Duane Allen- Lead
  • William Lee Golden- Baritone
  • Richard Sterban- Bass

3). Singing Americans- The Singing Americans were formed in late 1968 by Bob “Sonny” Lemar in Winston-Salem, NC. Lemar played piano and sang baritone. The other original members were Preston “Pete” Yates (lead), Bob Sims (tenor) and Norris Rife (bass). Sims was later replaced by a 12-year-old tenor named Rodney Hoots. After Yates left, Lemar moved to lead and Mickey Blackwelder moved into the baritone slot. Blackwelder was only with the group for a short time before being replaced by future Kingsmen baritone Wayne Maynard. The Singing Americans also added a drummer named Jon Mark Russell and a bass guitar player named Euclid Huella. In the early 1970s, they added a pair of trumpet players named Jerry Hill and Gary Barnhart.

Homer Wadford bought the group and relocated them to Raleigh, NC around the end of 1972. Wadford did not perform with the group. After selling the group, Lemar reunited with Rife to form a mixed group called the Hallmarks. Jimmy Taylor played piano when they were in Raleigh. Later in the 1970s, the group called Asheville, NC home. Wadford ultimately sold the group to Charles Burke who was based in Maiden, NC. Under the guidance of Burke, the Singing Americans achieved their greatest success.  The group saw some of the industry’s most well known talents grace its roster.  Best Lineup:

A

  • Danny Funderburk- Tenor
  • Michael English- Lead
  • Ed Hill- Baritone
  • Dwayne Burke- Bass

B

  • Danny Funderburk- Tenor
  • Ivan Parker- Lead
  • Ed Hill- Baritone
  • Dwayne Burke- Bass

C

  • Rick Strickland- Tenor
  • Michael English- Lead
  • Ed Hill- Baritone
  • Dwayne Burke- Bass

4). The Rebels Quartet- The history of the Rebels Quartet begins with the Sunny South Quartet, a group based in Tampa, Florida. The Sunny South Quartet was sponsored by the Dixie Lily Flour Company when Horace Floyd decided to relocate the group to Orlando. Bass singer J D Sumner remained in Tampa and retained the sponsorship of the flour company. He formed the Dixie Lily Harmoneers and hired his brother-in-law, John Mathews, to sing baritone, but soon departed for Atlanta to join the Sunshine Boys.

The group Sumner left behind went through a few changes in personnel before the name of the group was changed to the Dixie Rebels Quartet around 1950. “Dixie” would later be dropped from the name. The earliest known configuration of the Rebels once the name changed occurred included Horace Parrish at tenor, Lee Kitchens singing lead, John Mathews at the baritone position, Norman Allman at bass, and Jimmy Hand playing piano. Best Lineup:

A

  • Horace Parrish- Tenor
  • Jim Hamill- Lead
  • John Mathews- Baritone
  • London Parris- Bass

5). Dixie Echoes- The Dixie Echoes got their start in 1960 when JG Whitfield decided to return to singing. Whitfield, only just a couple of years earlier, had yielded his bass singing role of the Florida Boys to spend more time at home. But as the country entered the first year of the ’60s, the desire to sing lured Whitfield to form another quartet that he named The Messengers. In 1962, J.G. renamed the group to The Dixie Echoes Quartet. It was in 1963 that the Dixie Echoes truly began to journey down the path that would carve their place in Southern Gospel history. Current lineup ranks third in our opinion. Best Lineup:

A

  • Coy Cook- Tenor
  • Dale Shelnut- Lead
  • Joe Whitfield- Baritone
  • JG Whitfield- Bass

B

  • Kevin Ivey- Tenor
  • Randy Shelnut- Lead
  • Randy Shelnut Jr- Baritone
  • Billy Todd- Bass

C

  • Stephen Adair- Tenor
  • Randy Shelnut- Lead
  • Randy Shelnut Jr- Baritone
  • Chandler Johnson- Bass

6).  Gaither Vocal Band- The Gaither Vocal Band formed spontaneously before a Gaither Trio concert. Original members included Gaither Trio members Bill Gaither (baritone) and Gary McSpadden (lead) along with Trio backup singers Steve Green (tenor) and Lee Young (bass). They sang “Your First Day In Heaven” for an appreciative Gaither Trio audience. The debut recording by the group was self-titled The New Gaither Vocal Band.

For the next decade, the Gaither Vocal Band had success in the exploding Christian contemporary market. Steve Green left to become a successful soloist. He was succeeded by Larnelle Harris who also became a household name after recording a couple of big duets with Sandi Patty. By 1988, the line-up included former Imperials tenor Jim Murray, Michael English and Mark Lowry. Bill Gaither had shifted from baritone to bass around 1985.

In 1991, Bill Gaither convinced their contemporary label, Star Song, to allow the group to record a Southern Gospel album with some of their heroes. Titled Homecoming, the album led to a concept video being recorded for the song “Where Could I Go?” After the video taping, the guests gathered around a piano in the studio to sing. This was also captured on video and included on the ensuing videotape release. The first video led to another and another. The Gaither Homecoming video series ultimately became the most successful video series of its kind with several titles certified gold and platinum by the RIAA. For our purposes, we will focus on the lineups who released music in the southern gospel industry.

Best Lineup:

A

  • Terry Franklin- Tenor
  • Michael English- Lead
  • Mark Lowry- Baritone
  • Bill Gaither- Bass

B

  • David Phelps- Tenor
  • Guy Penrod- Lead
  • Russ Taff- Baritone
  • Bill Gaither- Bass

C

  • David Phelps- Tenor 1
  • Wes Hampton- Tenor 2
  • Michael English- Lead
  • Mark Lowry- Baritone
  • Bill Gaither- Bass

7).  Masters V- The original Masters V consisted of Rosie Rozell singing tenor, James Blackwood and Jake Hess alternating between lead and baritone, JD Sumner singing bass, and master emcee and pianist Hovie Lister rounding out the group. The Masters V’s first self titled album won a Grammy Award for best traditional Gospel performance. Most of the songs from this Skylite album were songs formerly associated with either the Statesmen Quartet or the Blackwood Brothers. As subsequent recordings were released, most of the quartet’s songs fit this same mold. Best Lineup:

A

  • Rosie Rozell- Tenor
  • Jake Hess/ James Blackwood- Lead
  • Jake Hess/ James Blackwood- Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

B

  • Steve Warren- Tenor
  • Jake Hess/ James Blackwood- Lead
  • Jake Hess/ James Blackwood- Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

8). Booth Brothers- The original Booth Brothers included Ron Booth, Charles Booth, James Booth, and Wallace Booth. They were based in Detriot, MI. This group formed in 1957 and functioned as a regional group until 1963 when Ron left to sing with the Toney Brothers. Ron would later sing with the Rebels, the Thrasher Brothers, and the Stamps.

The group name was revived in 1990 when Ron Booth and his sons Michael Booth, and Ronnie Booth formed a trio. Over the next few years, the group would come to be known for their infectious energy on stage. The elder Ron Booth retired and was replaced in 1998 by former member Joseph Smith. Winning over fans at events like the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion and keeping a strong connection to traditional fans by involving the legendary Mosie Lister in their recordings, the Booth Brothers had a major hit with a Lister penned song titled Still Feelin’ Fine. This song featured a sequel lyric to Lister’s popular I’m Feeling Mighty Fine. Best Lineup:

A

  • Michael Booth- Tenor
  • Ronnie Booth- Lead
  • Jim Brady- Baritone

9). Ernie Haase & Signature Sound- Ernie Haase and Garry Jones formed Signature Sound Quartet in 2002 after Old Friends Quartet dissolved. Both men had performed in Old Friends along with George Younce, Jake Hess and Wesley Pritchard. Other original members of Signature Sound included Shane Dunlap on lead,  Doug Anderson at baritone and Tim Duncan at bass. Dunlap dissolved his own group,  N’Harmony, in order to join the new group. Not long after the initial group lineup was announced, Duncan resigned, but he would return to the group before they began touring.

After a year, Haase and Jones decided to part ways. Dunlap and Jones planned to form a new group that never materialized. Duncan and Anderson remained with Haase. Haase’s former Old Friends baritone filled the lead role until Ryan Seaton was hired. This lineup would soon sign with Bill Gaither’s Spring House Music Group, releasing several successful albums and companion DVD’s and gaining wide success. Like many groups today, roster changes eventually caught up with Signature Sound as some talent wasn’t as strong as some of the original versions. Best Lineup:

A

  • Ernie Haase- Tenor
  • Ryan Seaton- Lead
  • Doug Anderson- Baritone
  • Tim Duncan- Bass

B

  • Ernie Haase- Tenor
  • Shane Dunlap- Lead
  • Doug Anderson- Baritone
  • Tim Duncan- Bass

Our newer group spotlight: 

10). Freedom Quartet- 

“Freedom” is the culmination of a mutual lifelong dream for longtime friends Josh Garner who sang with the Florida Boys and currently with Dixie Melody Boys and John Rulapaugh who sang with the Dove Brothers and Palmetto State Quartet. Having spent a combined total of more than 30 years singing the Gospel, these young men created a new standard in Christian Music. Joining Garner and Rulapaugh in this new undertaking was former  Soul’d Out Quartet baritone Joel Trimble.

Alan Kendall, who was a baritone for  Melody Boys Quartet joined Freedom in 2011. In 2012 Alan Kendall left Freedom and was replaced by vocalist and pianist, Tyler Vestal. On September 1, 2013 Freedom Trio performed their last concert together.

Within a week of the trio disbanding John Rulapaugh, founder of the Southern Gospel group, Freedom, announced a new lineup of singers as part of the new “Freedom Quartet”. The lineup consisted of John Rulapaugh, Dale Shipley who sang with Perfect Heart, Preston Garner, and Burman Porter who sang with the Dove Brothers and Palmetto State Quartet. They debut as a quartet at the 2013 National Quartet Convention. Out of the current newer groups in the industry today, Freedom has the best opportunity to achieve the most success. Solid vocals and a style of music that southern gospel fans love make them the new group to watch. They have already garnered tremendous success winning the Singing News traditional quartet of the year in 2015.  Its a little more difficult to determine Freedom quartet’s best lineup as so far the original lineup is still intact. Its just a matter of time before this quartet is a household name. Best Lineup for Freedom trio:

A

  • John Rulapaugh- Tenor
  • Josh Garner- Lead
  • Alan Kendall- Baritone

Best lineup for Freedom quartet (The only lineup so far for group)

A

  • John Rulapaugh- Tenor
  • Dale Shipley- Lead
  • Preston Garner- Baritone
  • Burman Porter- Bass

 

 

 

 

 

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Best Versions Of Popular SG Groups Part 1

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The southern gospel genre has produced some amazing talent over the past 70 years. Many popular groups have had numerous variations of themselves as industry turnover is a given for every group who sings for any length of time. Here we list some of our favorite versions of some popular groups in southern and country gospel, including a few current newcomers who have caught some attention. This is a 2 part series. Part 2 will be posted next month. This 1st edition features 10 groups from the past to the modern era. The rankings will go from very best lineup in slot A to other notable lineups on B and C. The final group listed on each edition will be a current group we feel has potential to make some noise in the industry. If we miss a lineup you like, please let us know in the comments!

1). The Statesmen Quartet- The Statesmen are one of the most prestigious quartets in the history of southern gospel music. Their hit song Get Away Jordan was one of the groups show stopping tunes. Elvis Presley loved the Statesmen and often cited lead singer Jake Hess as one of his biggest musical influences. Best Lineup:

A

  • Hovie Lister- Owner & Pianist
  • Rosie Rozell- Tenor
  • Jake Hess- Lead
  • Doy Ott- Baritone
  • Jim Wetherington- Bass

B

  • Hovie Lister- Owner & Pianist
  • Claris Freeman- Tenor
  • Jake Hess- Lead
  • Doy Ott- Baritone
  • Jim Wetherington- Bass

2).  Blackwood Brothers Quartet- The Blackwood Brothers are the other great prestigious quartet of the last 70 years. In the 1950’s the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen toured as a team and they were a formidable force in the music industry. They have recorded over 200 albums and sold over 50 million records. Best Lineup:

  • Bill Shaw- Tenor
  • James Blackwood- Lead
  • R.W. Blackwood- Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

B

  • Bill Shaw- Tenor
  • James Blackwood- Lead
  • Cecil Blackwood- Baritone
  • JD Sumner- Bass

3).  Gold City Quartet- This legendary quartet really made their mark during the 1980’s. Their signature song, Midnight Cry, was one of the biggest hits of the modern era in the genre. After numerous hit singles and awards, the group has proven their staying power. Their current lineup ranks up there with the best. Best Lineup:

A

  • Brian Free- Tenor
  • Ivan Parker- Lead
  • Steve Lacey- Baritone
  • Tim Riley- Bass

B

  • Steve Ladd- Tenor
  • Jonathan Wilburn- Lead
  • Daniel Riley- Baritone
  • Aaron McCune- Bass

C

  • Thomas Nalley- Tenor
  • Chip Pullen- Lead
  • Daniel Riley- Baritone
  • Chris West- Bass

4). Kingsmen Quartet- The Kingsmen have produced some of the most notable talent in the industry over the years. They are one of the most awarded groups in southern gospel history with 14 top 40 number 1 songs, that ranks 2nd all time in the history of the chart. The current lineup ranks with the best.  Best Lineup:

  • Ernie Phillips- Tenor
  • Jim Hamill- Lead
  • Squire Parsons- Baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese- Bass

B

  • Harold Reed- Tenor
  • Bryan Hutson- Lead
  • Randall Crawford- Baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese- Bass

C

  • Chris Jenkins- Tenor
  • Bob Sellers- Lead
  • Randall Crawford- Baritone
  • Ray Dean Reese- Bass

5).  The Hinsons- This family group took the industry by storm. The Hinsons were recognized by both the Dove Awards and the Singing News Fan Awards for the 1972 Song of the year, “The Lighthouse“. In 1973, they again won the SNFA Song of the Year for “He Pilots My Ship.” In 1979, they were the SNFA choice for favorite group. Best Lineup:

  • Chris Hawkins Freeman- Tenor/Alto
  • Kenny Hinson- Lead
  • Larry Hinson- Baritone
  • Ronny Hinson- Bass

B

  • Yvonne Hinson- Tenor/Alto
  • Kenny Hinson- Lead
  • Bo Hinson- Baritone
  • Ronny Hinson- Bass

6). Three Bridges- Three Bridges music is rooted in traditional “southern gospel” and “black gospel” music.  This blended style has made Three Bridges one of the prominent internationally-acclaimed Gospel groups in Christian music today. The groups last 12 radio releases have been in the top 40 charts.  Best Lineup:

A

  • Jeremie Hudson- Tenor
  • Shannon Smith- Lead
  • Elliot McCoy- Baritone

7). The Florida Boys Quartet- This legendary quartet has been going since 1946. They have won numerous awards and had a number of top charting songs. Their signature song, When He Was On The Cross, remained on the top 40 charts for over a year. Their current lineup is the best they have had in ages. Best Lineup:

A

  • Tommy Atwood- Tenor
  • Les Beasley- Lead
  • Glen Allred- Baritone
  • Billy Todd- Bass

B

  • Harold Reed- Tenor
  • Josh Garner- Lead
  • Glen Allred- Baritone
  • Gene McDonald- Bass

C

  • Nathan Parrish- Tenor
  • Charlie Waller- Lead
  • Jimmy Reno- Baritone
  • Joe Armstrong- Bass

8). Cathedral Quartet- The Cathedrals were one of the most beloved and decorated groups in southern gospel music history. They went from 1964 until their retirement in December 1999. They enjoyed numerous charting singles and awards. Best Lineup:  

A

  • Kirk Talley- Tenor
  • Glenn Payne- Lead
  • Mark Trammell- Baritone
  • George Younce- Bass

B

  • Ernie Haase- Tenor
  • Glenn Payne- Lead
  • Scott Fowler- Baritone
  • George Younce- Bass

9).  The Nelons- The Nelons was started by founding member Rex Nelon and started out as The Rex Nelon Singers in 1977. The group was a spin-off of the family group the Lefevres. They became known as the Rex Nelon Singers in 1976 because the Lefevre family members had left the group. The group’s first number-one song was “Come Morning” on the Singing News Chart, and was awarded the Southern Gospel Song of the Decade for the 1980s. The current edition of the Nelons ranks as one of the groups best. Best Lineup:

A

  • Karen Peck- Soprano
  • Kelly Nelon- Alto
  • Jerry Thompson- Tenor/Lead
  • Rex Nelon- Bass

B

  • Amber Nelon Thompson- Soprano
  • Kelly Nelon Clark- Alto
  • Jason Clark- Tenor/Lead

Our newer group spotlight: 

10). Mark209- In 2011, the Mystery Men quartet announced a name change at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, KY. The new name, a reference to Mile Marker 209 in Nashville, was Mark209.   The group’s initial radio release, My Home In Heaven, remains their most notable release to date staying on the Singing News top 80 charts for 10 consecutive months. The group has earned several awards and has a loyal following. The groups original lineup remains its strongest ensemble of talent. With a tenor and baritone who could take country features and a traditional vocal on lead to tie the group to their roots, along with a powerful bass, they were a force vocally. It would have been interesting to see where this group would be today had the original cast stayed in place. Best Lineup:

A

  • Nathaniel Justice- Tenor
  • Jym Howe- Lead
  • Jimmy Reno- Baritone
  • Joe Armstrong- Bass

  • Nathaniel Justice- Tenor
  • Jym Howe- Lead
  • Jimmy Reno- Baritone
  • Ray Woconish- Bass

C

  • Nathaniel Justice- Tenor
  • Jym Howe- Lead
  • Josh Arnett- Baritone
  • Ray Woconish- Bass

 

 

Saving Southern Gospel

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Southern gospel music has been my favorite genre of music since I was a young boy. The genre officially originated around the year 1910 but general historical evidence shows it may have been around in some capacity in the late 1880’s. It came to be known as quartet music due to the original make up of the industry being all male groups.

In the early twentieth century, with such groups as the Blackwood Brothers quartet, the Statesmen, the Speer family, the Stamps quartet and the Lefevre Trio, the genre absolutely exploded in popularity.

During the 1980’s the genre begin to see a decline in popularity. In the early 1990’s the genre saw a tremendous surge in popularity thanks in part to the efforts of Bill and Gloria Gaither and the Gaither Homecoming tour where former older favorites of the industry saw their careers revived.

In 2005, The Radio Book, a broadcast yearbook published by M Street Publications, reported 285 radio stations in the U.S. with a primary format designation as “southern gospel,” including 175 AM stations and 110 FM stations. In fact, southern gospel was the 9th most popular format for AM stations and the 21st most popular for FM. Southern gospel radio promoters routinely service more than a thousand radio stations which play at least some southern gospel music each week. Recent years have also seen the advent of a number of internet-only southern gospel “radio” stations. These numbers have since declined.

Most groups report numbers of attendees at their venues have dropped over the last 10 years. As the current baby boomer generation ages, with them goes a lot of fans of the industry. For the longevity of the industry and for its survival, on some level the groups will have to find an appeal to the younger music fans.

The surge during the 1980’s where anyone with a few thousand dollars could record a song and release it to southern gospel radio did much damage to the industry from a quality standpoint. This lack of quality failed to appeal to the members of generation X . Gone were the high quality only releases by legendary industry groups and the genre suffered as a result.

Many church’s recently have incorporated praise & worship music and eliminated their choirs. Many educational institutions have eliminated choir from their curriculum due to funding issues. Children today are growing up having no concept of harmony or how to sing or hear parts.

Southern gospel now stands at a crossroads where it must decide what steps to take to start attracting younger fans. A first step would be to stop fighting the need to update arrangements to a more modern sound. Just as the secular country industry faced a crossroads years back and had to adapt to preserve the genre, so must southern gospel now if it is to survive.

There will always be a place for traditional sounding groups and artists. But the time has come for the industry as a whole to stop shunning the artists who sing a more progressive and modern style of country gospel because they represent the best hope for the industry we love having a future.

Editors Note: Editorial articles are based upon the personal opinions of the staff writer who creates the article in question. Nothing posted here in our editorial section is intended to reflect negatively on any group or individual.  

 

 

Three Current Industry Questions We Have

From the latest happenings in the industry, we have three questions that have piqued our interest:

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1). Jim Brady Trio- 

With the departure of Tim Parton from the trio, what direction will Jim and Melissa Brady decide to go? They could bring in another harmony vocalist and musician or they could search for another true feature singer type vocal and add another dynamic to the group.

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2). Kingsmen quartet-

While Ernie Phillips is doing a nice job filling in with the legendary quartet, who will they bring in as the permanent tenor?

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3).  Mark209-

Some of you may not be familiar with this group yet but I do encourage you to give them a try if you like country gospel.Their shows are definitely entertaining and ministry focused. The group has announced the hiring of Dustin Hood on baritone. Having heard the group perform live, Dustin has a nice voice but his style is much more traditional southern gospel than the previous vocalists they have had who sang more on the lines of progressive country in style. With lead singer Jym Howe also being more traditional in style, will the group shift its sound away from country and back to traditional southern gospel or will they expect Hood to change his natural style to fit the group? It will be interesting to see what the group does.

Editors Note: Editorial articles are based upon the personal opinions of the staff writer who creates the article in question. Nothing posted here in our editorial section is intended to reflect negatively on any group or individual.